How to write great copy for your website

It takes 500ms for someone to click away from your site, making this article essential reading for online content

How to write great copy for your website

If you can hold the attention of your visitors, they are more likely to return.  According to scientist Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University, Ottawa, browsers only take 500 milliseconds to decide if they like a web site or not and therefore less than a second to click away from your site.

Considering the general consensus was that it took 8 seconds before someone decided if they liked your site or not, this information makes it even more important to ensure that your landing page (either a stand-alone promotional page or any page someone can arrive on your website!!!) is optimised for results.

There are various links and resources on this blog/site, but the important factor to bear in mind is that your web site is or can be a 24/7 sales person and so it must be up to the job.

The purpose of your web site is to engage with your prospective customers.  Therefore, your landing page(s) design and landing page written copy needs to reflect what you want your visitor to do.

  • Does your landing page state what the offer is?
  • Does your landing page address who should be interested
  • Does your landing page reflect why they would be interested
  • Does your landing page show them how to get started and move to the next phase?

Dr Lindgaard added, “As websites increasingly jostle for business, companies should take note that unless the first impression is favourable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors," she warned.

Here's the link to read the "First Impression Count" article on the BBC web site. 

Salesmanship in Print

A great "free" short read is called Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins and is a must before you get stuck in to copy-writing. In fact, David Ogilvy once said: “Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times.

It's said that copy writing is salesmanship in print. Therefore, you need to make sure your written words are as impactful and engaging as they can be.

Consider this: If you can hold the attention of your visitors, they are more likely to return and ultimately buy from you.  A great book to read is Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso, it really helps you to understand the logic behind crafted words, especially for the web.

Know thy customer!

  • Identify the personas of your visitors to help you understand the language needed to communicate with them
  • You've got to know why they might come to your site in the first place - identify their specific mission as it relates to your products or services
  • Know the words and phrases your customers would use to find you in search engines. Consider using keyword tools like:
  • Know what they'll see when your site appears in search engine results: how you speak to them, and how you compare to the other choices
  • Know what it will take to keep them on your site once they arrive
  • Know why they'll consider choosing you over your competition
  • Know what will make them say, "Yes! this is exactly what I need!" and hit the BUY NOW button.

Everyone needs to have reason to say "yes", because...they need a reason "why".  Keep this in mind when you are crafting your page.

Persuasive Intent

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini discussed an experiment conducted by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer in which she demonstrated that people like to have a reason for doing something.

Her experiment was simple.  People were waiting in line to use a photocopier machine at a library. Langer's colleague asked those who were waiting if she could go ahead of them, saying, "Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the machine because I'm in a rush?"  Interestingly, 94% of those asked complied.  Note the word because, which introduced a reason for the request.

The experiment was repeated to a new group.  This time the request was "Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the copier.  Only 60% complied.

A final test to a new group used the following dialogue "Excuse me, I have five pages to copy, may I use the machine because I have to make some copies.  93% complied.

By introducing the word "Because" was enough to persuade people to comply. 

In doing the same with your web copy changes the impact your words have on your browsers.  Always tell your browsers why they need to do what you're asking because it works.

For example: "You must act now because this offer expires on February 28th after which we can no longer accept orders" would be sufficient.

Writing articles shouldn't be too taxing for most businesses, however, if you have another member of staff, get them involved (as long as they can write!).

My favourite books about Writing…

  1. My #1 Everybody Writes by Ann Handley: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
  2. Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing by Clair Kehrwald Cook: The one book that shows you how to make what you say as good as what you mean
  3. How to Write Great Copy by Dominic Gittens: Learn the unwritten rules of copywriting and fine rock-solid principles and the guidance you need to survive.
  4. On Writing by Stephen King: Part memoir, part master class by one of the best selling authors of all time.
  5. Elements of Style by Strunk & White: Buy it, study it, enjoy it.  It’s as timeless a book in our age of volubility.
  6. The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth: How to turn the Perfect English Phrase.  Crammed with tricks to make the most humdrum sentiments seem poetic or wise.
  7. Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso: Veloso has created the definitive guide to using the power of words to sell any product or service on the web. Jay Conrad Levinson – Guerrilla Marketing.

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About the Author

Nigel Maine

Nigel Maine

Nigel is the Founder & Managing Director of salesXchange and has been helping SMEs for over 25 years to develop their marketing, technologies and infrastructure to generate more profits, more efficiently. His recent book book "Integrate! The Essential Business Technology & Marketing Handbook" can be downloaded from Amazon.

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